To Begin

A knock came on the door.

During these COVID-19 times, knocks (or the doorbell) are always a freezing moment. Eighty percent of the time at my house, it’s a delivery person leaving something on the porch. That other twenty is divided by neighbors and friends, depending on local events and who’s in town. Our friends like traveling and have the money to do it.

My wife and I froze with the standard who-can-that-be wonder in our expressions. I recovered first, saying, “Who’s that? It’s ten o’clock at night.” I was thinking, I didn’t hear a car, and I was thinking, it must be an emergency, and I was looking at the clock to confirm the time (and discovering that it was actually almost ten thirty) (time to take my pills), and also thinking, where are the cats (because something may have happened to them). My mind is a busy place when the unexpected arrives. Finding the remote, I paused Endeavour on PBS on Prime.

My wife, though, said, “Go see who it is. I’m in my jammies. It must be important. Look out first.”

Annoyance fluttered through me as I went to the door. As if I wouldn’t look out first. Who in America doesn’t look out first, except in television shows and movies? Well, and sometimes novels.

As I navigated the way, I saw one cat watching, the rear end of another heading for cover somewhere, and the third doing a prairie dog impression on the sofa. They were all in and safe, so…?

I flicked on the light and looked out through the side glass (and wondered if I should have a phone in my hand (in case I needed to call the police), or a weapon). (Like, what weapon? A knife? I’m not a knife fighter. Where is my baseball bat? Did I give it away? Maybe I should get a frying pan.)

I didn’t see anyone on the porch, and no box or delivery (not even flowers), but then, someone was there. Not large, but bearded, dressed in green. I gasped as recognition vaulted through me.

It was a fucking leprechaun.

“Who is it?” my wife called from the den’s safety.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t know how. The leprechaun looked up at me and winked. I jumped back. “What the fuck.”

It had to be a joke. It wasn’t Halloween yet. What kind of joke was this?

Swallowing hard, my throat tightening and drying, I pushed one cat back with a foot, informing him, “Stay back, damn it,” and thought again about weapons. Then, screwing up manly courage, I opened the door.

A cold wind blew in, chilling me through. A shake began in my abdomen and rippled through my body.

The leprechaun was smiling and holding up an envelope. The envelope looked like it could have a bill. Maybe that’s all it was. Maybe it was just mispitched mail. Could this be one of our neighbors? I don’t think I’d ever seen a leprechaun in the neighborhood…

“Michael?” the leprechaun said. “Yeah, I know it’s you. Saying your name is but a formality.” His Irish accent was like Chris O’Dowd unfiltered, strangely heavy for one who didn’t have much mass to them.

“Number one, because people always ask, yes, I am a leprechaun. I won’t ask you to let me in. I know the time. Not a good time in your mind, but it’s the best time for us to come. We used to just break into people’s houses at night, but we lost a few of our people that way, especially in this century in America, if you see my meaning, leading to a policy change. But we don’t go around in the daytime, if you see what I mean. Little folk running around always draw attention, people making jokes about pots of gold, being stoned, and Lucky Charms cereal.” He fluttered the envelope at me. “This is for you. It’ll explain matters but you need to take it, open it, and read it. Do you understand?”

Meowing, the cat tried to get out to check out the leprechaun. Pushing the cat back with a foot, I nodded.

A smile lifted the leprechaun’s expression. “I’d appreciate it if you can give me a verbal response for the records and also take the envelope. They have your results.”

“My results?”

“From your 23 and Me DNA test. You’re part leprechaun, lad.”

“What?”

“Your DNA shows that you’re part leprechaun, Michael. Congratulations.”

“What?”

“I know it’s a lot to comprehend. Take the envelope, open it up, read it, and you’ll understand. The documents include our website and a passcode to let you in.”

I’m a leprechaun, my brain was saying, but the words kept just going around and around, like a music box in my head. I’m a leprechaun, I’m a leprechaun. I think it was playing a plinking little tune, too.

“The envelope, please,” the leprechaun said with less patience. “Do you mind? I’m on a schedule.”

I took the envelope.

“Again, do you understand? Say the words.”

“I understand,” I said.

“Good. Thank you.” Smiling and nodding, the leprechaun bowed. “I’ll see you later.” He disappeared.

“Who is it?” my wife called.

I closed the door. The moment was so 2020. “I don’t know where to begin.”

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